WINNER: Contemporary Fiction
CONTENT A middle-aged woman comes to faith in Christ and learns on the same day that her marriage is in trouble.
GIST The author takes literary risks in writing a long, rambling, first-person account of a woman dealing with betrayal as she's also learning to trust in Christ. The book drags in parts and the protagonist is frequently sidetracked by bunny trails and poetic thoughts, but it's good to see a writer going beyond cliches.
WINNER: North American Historical Fiction
CONTENT A Depression-era romance that finds widow Eliza Wyatt afraid to trust.
GIST Eliza never loved her husband, but he offered her security and she was faithful in return. Her father-in-law never liked her and terrorized the family. Now he's dead, and she is in danger of losing the farm that symbolizes the security she always craved. Through the help of a hobo and her husband's aunt, Eliza learns to trust God and others. Charming.
WINNER: Futuristic Fiction
CONTENT A mission to Mars, an explosion-could there be a saboteur?
GIST NASA cuts corners, threatening a four-man mission to Mars. The resulting voyage is plagued with problems both technical and personal. When an explosion rocks the ship, the astronauts must decide if they trust each other enough to take drastic action. A clunkily written sci-fi thriller.
WINNER: First Novel
CONTENT Novelist Ian Merchant writes horror stories but finds his pen runs dry after he converts to Christ.
GIST Merchant has a bad case of writer's block, but then a stalker starts harassing him and he begins to feel the kind of fright he only used to write about. Good premise-what happens when a conversion requires a new believer to rethink his entire professional life-but unexciting writing.
WINNER: International Historical
CONTENT A Lutheran pastor in Nazi Germany learns the meaning of courage as he stands for righteousness.
GIST Pastor Josef Schumacher is torn between the opinions of his congregation and his father-in-law, also a pastor, and his own knowledge of what's right. He is eventually forced off the fence and risks his life to save "defective" children destined for destruction. Engaging.
In 1999 a group of Christian publishers came together to develop a prize for Christian fiction. To qualify, books must be published in the United States the year before the award date, and are to be consistent with a Christian worldview as defined by the Apostle's Creed. The awards are meant to foster creativity, expand the readership for Christian fiction, and bring attention to gifted novelists whose books may not be bestsellers. The publishers named the prizes after Catherine Marshall's novel Christy.
This year Bethany House Publishers was the big winner, publishing five (all those listed above are Bethany House titles) of the eight victors, but Broadman and Holman won in the Western category with Stephen Bly's The Long Trail Home, WaterBrook Press won in the suspense category with T. Davis Bunn's Drummer in the Dark, and Multnomah won in the romance category with Dee Henderson's The Guardian. The Evangelical Christian Publishing Association also gives awards in many categories. Its award for fiction went to Randy Alcorn's Safely Home, published by Tyndale House.